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Conscious Communicator Tip #29 Too Many Organizations Avoid the Tough Issues(< 300 words)

My first organizational consulting client had serious issues in its workplace that senior leadership was avoiding, which eventually led to the invitation for me to come in to help.

Upon my initial investigation I learned there were significant performance and behavior problems of key personnel that were negatively impacting the motivation, morale and productivity in the office.

In this close knit, small family owned business the owner of the company needed outside help to address the issues because he was too close to the personnel to confront the issues directly with each, so they were avoided.

In organizations large and small there are “elephants in the room,” as they are called, that negatively  impact the people in the work environment.

Most everyone can at least feel, if not see what’s going on, that for one reason or another are never directly dealt with.

At best the issues are vaguely referred to in group meetings, and are glossed over with no action plan or substantive conversation to seriously address and repair the problems.

The reasons are manifold. Some of it is fear. Some of it is an “not my job” attitude of leaders in the department or division.

Whatever the reason it always is a failure of leadership.

Here’s an important question…

What issues are taking place in your workplace, that are clear to the people working in it, that everyone is talking about among themselves in the break room or around the dinner table to spouses, but not with people in the organization who can and should be doing something about them but instead are choosing to ignore or avoid them?

Please leave a comment below to add your experience around addressing the “elephants in the room” in organizations in this context of a lack of directness and candor.

’til next time,
skip weisman, transforming leadership and workplace communication to deliver champion level results

 

 

 

 

There are 6 comments. Add yours.

  1. Christine Schnorrbusch

    This is actually a big issue right now for me and I would love some recommendations on how to tackle. I lead a group of 20 “matrix managers”. They work on projects but do not directly manage their team members. 66% of them get the idea of being a matrix manager and a leader, but the other 33% doesn’t and it feels like deer in headlights when discussed…any ideas greatly appreciated!!!

    • Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert

      Christine,
      Thanks for your question.
      My first reaction in reading your question is “How is this ‘an elephant in the room’ not being addressed by leaders that should be addressing it?”

      Now to directly reply to your issue…
      This is difficult to answer in a blog reply, and I’ll give it a try anyway, let me know if these questions are helpful.

      Whenever I see a question like this the first question I ask is this:
      “Is it a skills/capability issue, or an attitude issue?”

      Are these individuals capable of serving in the capacity of a “matrix manager?” Do they have the necessary skills to do so? If the answer is yet, then it is an attitude issue that needs to be addressed.

      If they aren’t capable from a skills perspective, what skills are missing they need?

      IF the skills they are missing is the mindset, then its back to the attitude.

      Does this help frame the direction you need to go?

      • Christine Schnorrbusch

        Thank you! it is an elephant because I feel like the issue is skirted around. I need to just say it..as hard as it is to say “do you know what a leader is? and isn’t”

        From there, i could determine whether attitude or skills. First and foremost I feel like i have addressed it, but my message isn’t getting through…so need to re-think my strategy!

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert

    Yes, you cannot solve a problem until you first identify cause. If you make assumptions and take action accordingly you will be in trial and error mode and be in danger of either alienating or damaging potentially good people.

    Come from the mindset that “everyone wants to do a good job,” and it is your job as their leader to help them become even better at it. First ID if its a skills issue or an attitude issue.

    Just last week, one of my clients was frustrated because one of his direct reports didn’t follow through on a mini-project he was expecting to be done that had been agreed upon. He came to me furious that his direct report failed to deliver. I told him to take a step back and re-assess his approach and just get curious.

    In addressing the issue head on he learned that his direct report basically procrastinated on doing this thing, not because he didn’t want to or like it, it was because he was uncomfortable doing it as he didn’t feel he had the skills to do it effectively and quickly enough.

    Just that conversation to come to that understanding built huge levels of trust between the two of them and has changed their relationship. They are now working together to build up the skill level in this area so he will be more comfortable in the near future and not have to procrastinate on doing it.

    Hope that example helps.

    • Christine Schnorrbusch

      yes! thank you so much, i truly appreciate your feedback.

  3. Yuvarajah

    Good article, Skip. It resonates with a common phenomena faced in organisations – office politics. Sadly, the people at the top (claiming to be leaders)either pretend it does not exist or shove the elephant under the carpet. In some cases, they think an outside consultant/coach can come in to solve the problem. Yes, it roots backs to the cause – leadership that lacks moral courage and communication skill. Why get someone else to do what needs to be done?. Some managers just want to be the “nice” guys. And, that breeds office politics leading to toxic culture

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